Friday, July 30, 2021

Gelato Galaxy coming to Montgomery Mall

Gelato Galaxy
is coming to Bethesda. The space-themed frozen treat kiosk will be in the Dining Terrace food court at Westfield Montgomery Mall. In addition to gelato, they will also have soft serve custard and Italian ice. There is also a purple alien mascot ready to bring the flavors of the galaxy to the mall food court. Harry Reid has been fully briefed on this UFO sighting by Luis Elizondo.

Frank Pepe's Pizzeria back on at Montgomery Mall

Is Frank Pepe's Pizzeria Napoletana still coming to Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda? That's been one of the most frequently-asked questions since the pandemic threw the Connecticut-based pizza chain a curve ball in 2020. While construction has yet to begin inside the pizza parlor's future space on Level 1 at the mall, what I can tell you is that Frank Pepe has applied for a liquor license from Montgomery County. A hearing on the application is scheduled for September 2, 2021.

Gutted interior of the future
Frank Pepe's Pizzeria space

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Rockville construction update: Ansel Apartments (Photos)

Here's the latest look at the progress on the Ansel Apartments across from Regal Row in Rockville Town Center. Developed by Duball, LLC, the building will be managed by Bozzuto. Delivery is scheduled for this fall. I've heard that the leasing office may open as soon as next week.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Qdoba opening new Rockville location

Qdoba Mexican Eats
is opening a second Rockville location. The chain has leased a corner space at the new Rock Grove shopping center at MD 355 and Shady Grove Road. A liquor license hearing for the restaurant has been scheduled for August 5, 2021. Qdoba has an existing location around where the much-missed Putt Putt Golf & Games used to be, at 128 Rollins Avenue.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Bethesda Bagels, European Wax Center under construction at Fallsgrove Village Center in Rockville

Interior fit-outs are underway at the future Bethesda Bagels and European Wax Center at the Fallsgrove Village Center in Rockville. These photos were taken about a week ago, and you can see they are both in the early stages of construction at this point. European Wax Center is slightly ahead, with interior walls already taking shape last week.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Roaming Rooster expanding to Rockville

Roaming Rooster
, a fast casual restaurant chain known for its fried chicken sandwiches, is expanding to Montgomery County this fall. It will open an 1843 square foot location at Federal Realty's Pike & Rose development in Rockville. Among the chain's other locations are Tenleytown and Woodridge in the District. 

Started as a food truck in 2015, Roaming Rooster has become one of the most-successful family and minority-owned hospitality businesses in the region since. In addition to its famous free-range, grain-fed, antibiotic-free and Halal fried chicken sandwiches, the chain also offers an all-week breakfast menu, salads, side dishes, chicken wings, chicken tenders and hand-cut fries. The sandwiches are available in your choice of heat level: mild, medium or hot.

Roaming Rooster breakfast
biscuit sandwich

“We chose Pike & Rose in Montgomery County because we want to be part of a neighborhood that features premier retailers, restaurants and services,” Roaming Rooster co-owner Michael Habtemariam said in a press release. “As a supporter of the DMV’s local businesses, Federal [Realty] is eager to bring this popular regional favorite to its first location in Maryland and Montgomery County,” Federal Realty Director of Leasing Emily Gagliardi added.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Should Meixin Supermarket building in Rockville be declared historic?

The Rockville Planning Commission will consider whether or not the vacant Meixin Supermarket building at 460 Hungerford Drive should be declared historic or not at its July 28, 2021 meeting. City staff advised against changing the property's zoning to MXCD-HD (Historic District) in May. The city's Historic District Commission ruled otherwise on May 20, finding that the property met the criteria for designation, and recommending application of the Historic District (HD) overlay zone through the filing of a Sectional Map Amendment.

Now the Planning Commission will make a recommendation to the Mayor and Council regarding the fate of the property. JPMorgan Chase wishes to demolish the supermarket to clear the way for a Chase Bank branch. Planning staff is not recommending historic designation. While the building was designed by prominent Rockville architect John "Jack" Sullivan (1925-2014), staff argues it is not an exceptional example of his work. 

Historic preservation organization Peerless Rockville, by contrast, has supported historic designation for the property. Peerless Rockville Executive Director Nancy Pickard noted in a May 2021 letter that the city's 1986 Historic Resources Management Plan is now outdated, placing 90 years of growth and architectural styles into a single period of consideration. Pickard suggested the city update its criteria to consider Midcentury Modern structures like the supermarket in the appropriate context, before making a final decision in this case.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Nationwide used car shortage evident in Rockville as new Ourisman Pre-Owned Supercenter opens

New cars are in short supply across America, and those in need are turning to used cars, driving up prices and driving down inventory. The reduced availability of used cars is evident in Rockville, as Ourisman opens the Ourisman Pre-Owned Supercenter at 15301 N. Frederick Road at E. Gude Drive. 

When this property was Ourisman's Rockmont Chevrolet, the lot was typically jammed to overflow with new and used inventory. As you can see, there is a lot more open space in the lot at the moment, as used cars are a hot commodity and selling fast. It's a great time to be in the pre-owned business, as supply chain shortages and booming inflation have made it a seller's market.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

JK Beer & Wine coming to Rockville Pike

JK Beer & Wine
is coming soon to Rockville Pike. It will be in the Golden Arcade strip mall at 800 Rockville Pike, in a storefront that was formerly home to Enterprise Rent-A-Car. The store has a liquor license hearing scheduled for August 19, 2021.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

IT'SUGAR opens at Montgomery Mall

is now open at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. The store was previously found at Rockville Town Square. You can see my sneak preview of the candy shop here. Look for IT'SUGAR on Level 1, in the Nordstrom wing.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Wendy's introduces limited-time Ghost Pepper Ranch sauce for chicken nuggets

is being haunted by a spicy new chicken nuggets sauce option. The fast food chain has temporarily added Ghost Pepper Ranch sauce to its menu. How hot is it? Watch a detailed review on YouTube.

Mr. Wish to open Rockville location

A new source of refreshment is coming to Congressional Plaza in Rockville. Mr. Wish is "coming soon" to 1615 Rockville Pike, according to signage placed in the storefront window. At Mr. Wish, you will find fruit teas, bubble teas, and smoothies that may hit the spot after your workout at the shopping center's new Fit Row fitness studios.

Mr. Wish currently has locations in nine other states. This will be the Pennsylvania-based chain's first Maryland store. Mr. Wish will be located next to Custom Ink.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Rockville Town Square now offering 2 hours free parking without validation


A major challenge for businesses at Rockville Town Square has been greatly reduced after years of debate. Patrons at the Federal Realty development will now be able to park free in the Rockville Town Square garages for 2 hours, without validation. 

After two hours, the parking fees are $1 (2-3 hours), $3 (3-4 hours), and $5 (4-5 hours). While parking there still won't be free for unlimited hours like it is at competing developments Rio Lakefront and Downtown Crown, the two free hours at least makes it competitive now.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Rockville expected to add new Rock East District

Rockville's Mayor and Council may officially designate a new district within the City at its meeting on Monday, July 19, 2021. Rockville Economic Development, Inc. (REDI) has formally submitted a request that elected officials declare the East Gude Drive corridor as the "Rock East District." If the Mayor and Council approve Monday night, REDI will fund and install pole banners along East Gude Drive for a targeted formal launch of the branding in September. Banners, signage and other branding materials will illustrate the breweries, "trendy shopping" and recreational opportunities found along the industrial-oriented corridor.

Rockville Mayor & Council to consider changes to remainder of 2021 event schedule

While the Biden administration earlier this year targeted July 4 as a symbolic ending to the pandemic, new virus variants, debates about the necessity for booster shots, and a failure to reach vaccination targets have made it hard to make such a declaration. In this context, the City of Rockville is now re-examining events that had been anticipated to take place over the remainder of 2021. "The pandemic is better, but not quite over," a staff report prepared for the Mayor and Council meeting for July 19 summarizes. 

Staff recommendations include postponing a planned Post-Covid 19 Pandemic Celebration until next year, as well as the State of the City address and the annual Volunteer Appreciation Party. The report notes that, in addition to health concerns, staff shortages at security firms have massively increased costs for hiring event security this year.

Other recommended changes are to move the Rocktobierfest from Rockville Town Square to RedGate Park, and to proceed with the 9//11 ceremony, the Rockville Antique and Classic Car Show, and Veterans Day ceremony at Veterans Park as scheduled, as all of these events are outdoors.

The Mayor and Council will review the recommendations at Monday's meeting, and instruct staff to implement any schedule changes.

Photo courtesy City of Rockville

Montgomery County to rifle through residents' recycling bins with camera crews in tow

Montgomery County is experiencing a violent crime wave, but has defunded 27 police officer positions. The County was chastised last year for leaving 54 positions unfilled at its 911 call center, a failure that was highlighted by a 36 minute response time to a fatal drowning incident. Those are far from the only areas of government understaffed, as witnesses to the collapse of a rusted-out traffic signal pole in Bethesda this week can attest. But the County's Department of Environmental Protection appears to be well-staffed, as it will demonstrate this morning in Bethesda. 

According to a press release, DEP inspectors will go house-to-house in the neighborhood near Walt Whitman High School, and rifle through each resident's recycling bin. "Reporters and camera crews will be able to follow the inspectors" starting at 6:30 AM this morning, in what appears to be a massive violation of residents' privacy. This was clearly the wrong week to toss your unshredded sensitive documents or Playboy collection. Do you read the wrong newspaper, or drink too many boxed alcoholic beverages? We may find out this morning!

The "Oops Tag" program quietly began two months ago, the press release states. Inspectors have had the time and manpower to already sweep through those early-targeted neighborhoods "two to three times." Rummaging through residents' recycling bins, they have left a tag on those which contained items that cannot be recycled, identifying the ineligible items. Such ineligible items cost taxpayers approximately $750,000 in 2020, the press release says.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Rockville Pike Mobil completes garage conversion to convenience store

The Mobil gas station at 890 Rockville Pike by Edmonston Drive has a new, more modern look. A recent project to convert the auto repair garage bays into a larger convenience store space is now complete. This is definitely an above-average size of convenience store as far as Rockville Pike gas stations go, and somewhat more competitive with the Dash In-style convenience store model found on corridors like MD 650 and US 301 in Maryland, or the smaller 7-Eleven gas stations.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Inotiv to lease space in Rockville after acquiring Biolreliance genetic toxicology unit

, an Indiana-based non-clinical contract research organization, has acquired the genetic toxicology unit of MilliporeSigma’s BioReliance portfolio. While MilliporeSigma 's parent Merck is headquartered in Germany, it has a Bioreliance facility at 14920 Broschart Road in Rockville. As a result, Inotiv announced plans today to lease space in Rockville near that Bioreliance facility "to help boost its new buy," Fierce Biotech's Ben Adams reported this morning.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Rockville police chief to address Asian community safety Thursday night

Rockville Police Chief Victor Brito will address the safety of the city's large Asian-American community in a virtual forum this Thursday night, July 15, 2021 at 7:00 PM. You can register online in advance to participate in the meeting, which will also include representatives of the Asian and Pacific Islander community. The forum is being organized by the City of Rockville's Asian Pacific American Task Force.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Rockville zoning change would allow self-storage use at office buildings in mixed-use employment zones

U-Haul, Inc. has filed a request with the City of Rockville for a zoning change that would permit a self-storage use on existing properties citywide that are currently zoned as MXE (mixed-use employment) zones. The applicant is seeking the change because it would like to install self-storage units in an office building it owns at 1355 Piccard Drive. Self-storage warehouses in MXE zones were eliminated as a permitted use in 2019 by the Mayor and Council, and became a conditional use, and only if the site adjoins property that allows heavy industrial uses.

A zoning text amendment (ZTA) proposed by U-Haul would allow the self-storage use under the following conditions

  • Self-storage would be operated in conjunction with an existing permitted use in the MXE zone
  • Access to the self-storage units is internal-only, from inside the building
  • Self-storage use is located inside an existing office building

The Rockville Planning Commission will receive a briefing on the proposed ZTA at its July 14, 2021 virtual meeting. 

Planning staff have advised against adopting the ZTA. At U-Haul's Piccard Drive building in particular, staff suggests the area proposed for conversion to self-storage is large enough to make that the principal use, rather than a use "in conjunction with" an existing principal use. The change would also reduce the job-creating potential in existing office buildings, staff argues. Any existing, "underperforming" office building could add self-storage as its principal use under the ZTA as proposed, which staff indicates goes against the reasoning behind banning self-storage facilities in MXE zones in the first place.

The ZTA will come back before the Planning Commission on July 28. At that time, commissioners will have the opportunity to discuss and make a formal recommendation to the Mayor and Council on the ZTA.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Underground utility work on E. Middle Lane in Rockville (Photos)

A utility crew was working under the street on E. Middle Lane in Rockville Town Center late last night. The work took place near the driveway entrance to the Choice Hotels headquarters garage. A new apartment building is under construction on that block. At least one City of Rockville vehicle was on-site.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Rockville city drinking water again gets a passing grade in annual report

The latest annual report on the municipal water supply shows that Rockville's water once again meets or exceeds federal standards for safe drinking water. Rockville has its own water treatment plant on the Potomac River, and serves 13,000 customers in the city. "Thousands of daily, monthly, quarterly and annual laboratory tests help monitor our water quality and determine the correct type and level of treatment necessary to provide our customers with safe, reliable drinking water," Rockville's Director of Public Works Craig Simoneau wrote in an introductory letter to the new report.

Photo courtesy City of Rockville

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Car stolen from Rockville apartment building

Montgomery County police responded to a report of a vehicle being stolen from an apartment building garage in Rockville yesterday. The vehicle was taken from the garage of a building in the 500 block of Hungerford Drive. It is believed the car was stolen sometime between 4:00 PM Sunday and 11:00 AM Monday, according to crime data.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Car stolen from home in Rockville

City of Rockville police responded to a report of a stolen car at a home in the Twinbrook area of Rockville yesterday afternoon. The vehicle was parked along the street in the 300 block of Nimitz Avenue, according to crime data. It is believed the car was stolen sometime between 9:30 PM Wednesday night and midday Thursday.